I have been paying quite a bit of attention to eCommerce over the past year following latest news, product innovations and trends. 2011 was an exceptional record breaking year, as was 2010, 2009, 2008, 2000…(I think you get the point). Each year eCommerce is growing bigger then the last. Here, in no particular order are, are the top 5 eCommerce trends for 2012.
1. Social Media Integration
As the Social Media phenomenon continues to expand through Facebook, Twitter and now Google+, businesses are expanding into this space recognizing that having a social media strategy is well worth the additional effort (If you are addicted to Facebook, get your resume together). From a marketing standpoint, your fans and followers are all connected and right in front of you. WHY would anyone ignore the opportunity to connect directly?
Social Media Marketing
They like you, follow you, read your articles, and you have done a fantastic job staying in touch and responding to your customers. Online Marketers take note, these are your customers, they choose to come to you. Don’t let your Facebook page rot, or your twitter feeds get boring. ENGAGE!
Start discussions, get product reviews, better yet, offer and sell! More and more business owners are taking advantage of the power of social media. Why shouldn’t you?
Look for more actively engaged social media marketing efforts. It will be interesting to see what kind of things Facebook, Twitter, Linked In etc. will do to adapt to the growing number of online marketers utilizing social media platforms into their marketing strategies.
In 2011, a lot of social media marketers were using contests to get people to like their pages and follow them. Now that they have built their customer base, this year look to see marketers get more active and engage.
Online incentives are great for your customers. Online promotions and contests reduce costs of direct marketing, and reach your current customers directly.
2. Tablet Shopping
Increase in Tablet Sales
Tablet sales were at an all time high in 2011 and are only going to continue to grow in 2012. Although the Apple iPad 2 remains top of the leader board, Samsungs Galaxy tablet is growing in popularity, and who knows what RIM plans on doing about their Playbook product that was not as much of a success as other tablet products.
In one of our past Toronto eCommerce Meet ups, we had a very deep discussion about the impact online and mobile retailer will affect traditional bricks and mortar retailers. We concluded that there will always be a physical store, regardless the growth of eCommerce, traditional retail will always have a strong presence.
However, we can all agree that the physical store is going to have to change. Retail Mobilization is a growing trend that is making its way into business models and strategies. Amazingly, mobile technology has found its way into employees hands as a tool used for efficient customer service.
We’ve already seen in-store mobilization in retail stores like Sears, Home Depot and Urban Outfitters. Employees are now being equipped with tablets to help with product information and customer service.
3. Real Time Connectivity
Customer service (Live chat support)
Customer service is quickly evolving online. When I first starting exploring Microsoft adCenter and was a little confused with the reports and settings (my background is with Google Adwords), I logged on and had a quick chat with a customer service rep who was extremely helpful getting me set up on their platform. Believe me when I say software and development companies will better their customer service efforts by implementing instant live chat in 2012.
Live video chat/sales
If you ever had any doubts about the non tangible aspects of online shopping, maybe this will help. Web stores such as Joyus have implemented video sales to further engage the customer and show off the features of the products they sell online.
Video search is one of the most popular activities on the web. Bloggers, Social Media users, pretty much everyone embeds and uploads their own videos. Over the past few years, product pages have evolved quite a bit including customer reviews, color and size attributes.
While How-To’s have been flooding the web for years now, in 2012 look for merchants to take advantage of online viral marketing. Keep an eye out on your favourite eCommerce sites and watch the number of video sales increase.
Remarketing tools for Pay Per Click advertisements have exploded all over the web over the past few years. This has been a great way for online marketers to get visitors that are interested in their product or service to their site.
Pay per click has evolved across search engines and display networks and continues to be a high source of traffic to small business and corporate website owners. As more and more merchants realize the value of remarketing and video advertisement placements don’t get to upset that your favourite videos are getting bombarded with Pay Per Click Ads.
4. Dynamic Site Experience
On site Marketing – Coupon Codes
Okay nothing new about this topic, but as spending online is increasing, grass roots marketing is evolving online as well. My Christmas shopping has certainly become a lot more easy over the years. Gift Certificates to the mall, movies, restaurants and the LCBO, done!
E-tailers, do not hesitate on the idea of a virtual gift card. Coupon and promotional codes are secure and an effective way for customers to gift online, and get new customers. Think real, act viral.
Ren’s Pets has always been active in direct marketing campaigns with their wholesale catalogs and in store coupons. This is a screenshot of their online gift card.
Visual and Graphic Design
The following is an excerpt from a previous blog post I posted after one of our bi-weekly eCommerce Toronto meet ups
“A balance of both design and user experience needs to be present in order to run an effective eCommerce store. There are eCommerce storefronts that are very design heavy and engage their target markets by providing eye candy websites while others such as Sears focus on product and category pages and easy navigation through the checkout process.”
The quality of product images and visual merchandising online is a trend that marketers will continue to evolve throughout 2012. A product image zoom tool is a cool feature etailers are implementing into their product pages to interact with the customer. Fashion sites implement product zooms because their products are modeled and gives the customer a visual of what a jean jacket or purse looks like on a person.
Product image zooms are very popular in fashion sites.
Multiple Store Views
Websites like Bentley Leathers operates two storefronts, one in English, the other in French. Multiple Store Fronts are very common in search (Google) and social (Facebook) engines, but also websites like Monster who are segmented based on location (Monster Canada, Monster Europe etc.)
Many retail and restaurant chains are owned under a parent company. Merchants are beginning to operate Multiple Store Fronts to maximize efforts on the web and open up more channels of distribution for their products and services.
5. Job Opportunities
The demand for IT and eCommerce positions in 2012 will increase. As a young industry in Canada, certain skills and requirements are not easy to find. Keep an eye out for Help Wanted ads in Workopolis and Monster for online marketing, engineering, analysts and other eCommerce related positions to open up in the near future.
What does this mean for Post Secondary Institutions?
A question I decided to ask myself, and answer as well. Technology and schools of Business Management cannot ignore these trends. It is possible that over the years we will see post secondary institutions implement eCommerce related courses into programs related to technology and marketing. There are certain skills and trades that are still young in the industry such as project/product management and online marketing (changing what seems like every month).